Banning Emails – Novel or Nonsense?

by Brittany Bevacqua on December 7, 2011

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I’ll admit it. I’m in a love/hate relationship with my inbox. Don’t get me wrong; there are things I love about it: it bears witness to the exchange of great ideas, documents new relationships with key influencers, and gives me amazing search functionality (hello all-important email I sent back in 2008!). But it also has an ugly side. The side that gives me anxiety after coming back from a week-long vacation, or a full day of back-to-back meetings where my laptop, and phone, don’t belong. I’m talking about the condition commonly known as email overload. 

I recently read that Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, made a bold statement – he plans to ban internal emails at his company in favor of instant messaging, wikis, texting and face-to-face interaction. Estimating that his managers spend anywhere from 5-20 hours a week reading emails, of which only 10 percent are useful, he hopes this move will boost productivity and cause employees to think differently about the ways they communicate.

My take? As much as I’d like to “select all” and “delete” on days when my inbox seems unmanageable, in the PR business it would be nearly impossible to do away with it for good. But, philosophically, there are some things associated with a zero email policy that are worth exploring. For example, fewer emails to respond to would give you more time to strategize, execute and help clients meet their goals. An email ban would also serve as a reminder of how effective picking up the phone can be, especially when you need an answer quickly and your refresh button isn’t cutting it. Lastly, I have to believe that putting a temporary block on internal emails specifically could help foster improved teamwork. In-person meetings, creative brainstorms and team celebrations help everyone get out from behind the computers and learn what makes colleagues tick – in and out of the office.

How this pans out for Atos remains to be seen, but I’d love to know in the comments – could you imagine doing away with email all together? Is there any good that could come from it?

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